France launches first strikes on ISIL in Iraq

Two fighter jets took part in US-led operation that destroyed logistics depot held by rebels, President Hollande says.

Hollande says the French military operations against ISIL will continue in coming days [Reuters]

France has carried out its first air strikes in Iraq against positions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, joining a US-led operation to defeat the rebel group.

In a statement issued on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said the strike destroyed a logistics depot held by ISIL.

It said that at least two Rafale fighter jets were involved in the operation in northeastern Iraq, and that the target was “entirely destroyed”.

Hollande’s office also said other operations would continue in the coming days.

On Thursday, Hollande announced that France would provide what he called “aerial support” to the Iraqi army in their fight against the ISIL, which has taken over nearly half of the violence-ridden country.

“I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support,” Hollande said.

“As soon as we have identified targets, we will act … within a short time-frame.”

France has already conducted reconnaissance flights over Iraq that started on Monday, and dispatched weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the ISIL group.

Hollande himself visited Iraq late last week – the most high-profile leader to do so since ISIL stormed across the country – and Paris hosted an international conference on the crisis on Monday.

However, unlike the US, which has pledged to attack ISIL even in Syria, where they hold around a quarter of the country, Hollande said French involvement would be limited to Iraq.

“We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops,” Hollande said.

Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from France, said that the French president was careful to emphasise the operation was not done under US pressure.

Since the air strikes earlier on Friday, the aircrafts had returned to the French base in Abu Dhabi in UAE, our correspondent reported.   

France has six Rafale fighter jets and just under 1,000 soldiers based in the UAE and could even mobilise an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

In Iraq, a car bomb in a Shia-majority district of Baghdad and a motorcycle bombing in the northern city of Kirkuk have killed at least 16 people, security and medical officials said.

The attacks come as security forces and allied Shia militiamen and Sunni tribesmen fight to regain ground from armed group ISIL, which overran large part of the country in June.

The blast in the Karrada area of Baghdad killed at least eight people and wounded more than 20, while eight died and 13 were wounded in central Kirkuk.

The day before, a suicide bombing, car bomb and shelling struck Shia-majority areas of northern Baghdad, killing at least 23 people and wounding more than 56.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies